Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing Tokyo Ghost 5, originally released January 20th, 2016.
Shelby: A difficult personal story: about a year and a half ago, I witnessed a murder/suicide in my office. It shattered my world as I knew it. Everything is different now for me; my social anxiety is through the roof, I can’t really deal with parties or crowds anymore. I worry constantly about my interactions with other people: am I behaving correctly? Have I said/been offensive? I should probably apologize, I clearly did something wrong. I get depressed a lot, I find it can be difficult to get excited about things, even things I love and find exciting. The world as I understood it was taken away that day, by one person’s decision. I think that might be why I love Debbie in Tokyo Ghost so very much; I understand her fight to get back the world she lost when Teddy became Led Dent. Unfortunately, sometimes you can’t go back. Sometimes, as Led is about to discover, the end is the end.
“Teddy is dead. For good, this time.”
Led Dent is back, and badder than ever. Remember Davey Trauma, that lunatic Led and Debbie arrested back in issue 1? Now that Led is plugged back in, Davey is calling the shots, and Led is on the warpath. “But how, Shelby?” you cry. “What about the EMP field protecting Tokyo?” Turns out, that field was generated by Kazumi herself, as a part of an experiment to create super soldiers able to destroy the enemy’s power grid. Once she succumbed to her wounds, Led/Davey was free to go on a good ol’ fashioned rampage.
As her last act, Kazumi passed on her sword to Debbie, telling her it was on her now to generate the EMP field and lead the people. Debbie knows what she has to do; after stashing Kazumi’s son Takara in an emergency bunker, she finds the tech injection hidden in Kazumi’s sword that will turn her into the EMP generator. You see, not only has Led driven through town on his murder machine and literally crushed Kazumi’s husband’s head with his bare hands, Davey has had him plant a bomb which will destroy all organic life in Tokyo. Wipe the slate clean, so to speak, so Flak can rebuild it in his own image. Debbie knows she has to inject the tech, not only breaking her promise to herself to stay clean, but also becoming poison to Led and losing Teddy forever. She has to destroy her world in order to save it. Before she can, as Led rushes in to try to pull her out…boom.
How is it possible that every issue of this series breaks my heart more than the last? In just 5 issues, Rick Remender and Sean Murphy have a) shown us a shitty tech-dystopian future, b) told us the story of lovers driven apart by addiction, c) given us hope in the form of a tech-free utopia, and d) destroyed that hope, along with the utopia and probably one of the lovers. The moment Debbie saw Led on that bike, she knew her world was gone. Not only did she know she could never truly have Teddy back, she also knew that her attempt to get him back had led to the destruction of Kazumi’s world. But that’s not enough personal destruction for Remender; he can’t just take away Teddy, take away the utopia. He has to take away Debbie’s final, core aspect of herself: her tech-free life. The only way she can save this tech-free zone is to no longer be tech-free herself. It’s not enough that Teddy is lost to Led; Debbie has to alter herself so that Led (and therefore Teddy) can no longer be a part of her life.
IT GETS EVEN WORSE, THOUGH. Debbie sacrifices the core of her being and the love of her life, and it still isn’t enough. Her world is still destroyed, and with her destruction so is Teddy’s world. Because she always hoped Teddy could come back to her, because she never gave up on him, there was always a chance. Now that she’s gone, so is Teddy’s reason for existence. Even with Davey calling the shots, Led couldn’t hurt Debbie. There was still that tiny sliver of Teddy tied to Debbie. Without her, Teddy’s world is gone, too. Remender has gone on a fucking rampage, here; he’s torn apart everything these characters have held dear, leaving a giant, smoking crater in my goddamn heart.
As bleak as the destruction is, Murphy somehow manages to make it beautiful.
Remender can tell a hell of a story, but more importantly he knows when to shut up and let the artist take the wheel. This is a complicated bit of action, but Murphy and colorist Matt Hollingsworth show what’s happening here clear as crystal. This page also showcases one of my (many) favorite quirks of Murphy’s style: that almost cheeky little “leap” in the top panel. On top of the standard comic book onomatopoeia, Murphy frequently accents his visual depictions of actions with written depictions. I called it cheeky, and it is, but its cuteness somehow doesn’t detract from the tone of the scene. I can clearly see that that man is leaping from his horse, and yet by adding that little word Murphy imbues the action with just a little more power. I don’t know how it works, but it works, and I love everything about it. Drew, what did you think? Did Remender break your heart as well? Do you have any thoughts on where this story can go from here?
Drew: That last question always gets me on this series: I never have any idea where it’ll go next. I said as much at the end of issue 3, kind of wishing that this could just be the story of two lovers who lived happily ever after. At the time, I was lamenting that the actual conflict of the series had to start, but this issue reveals that the fight with Mash was far from that central conflict. Whatever the title “Tokyo Ghost” refers to, it’s in the setting of the destroyed Tokyo we see at the end of the issue.
Which is to say: yes, I’m totally heartbroken. There are enough glimmers of hope here for me to believe Debbie and Teddy might ultimately end up together, but it’s going to be a hell of a lot more complicated than it first seemed. Shelby outlined all of what makes the ending of this so crushing — the loss of Tokyo, the loss of Teddy, the loss of Debbie’s principles — but for me, the most crushing loss comes from the hint that Debbie’s paradise was still within reach when that bomb went off. Not only could she have saved Tokyo; she might have still been able to save Teddy, too.
If she could have activated her EMP, thus stopping the bomb and keeping the helicopters at bay, she might have also been able to pull Teddy out of the abyss. Alas, the bomb went off, leaving Tokyo a smouldering crater.
But as I intimated earlier, I don’t think this is the end of Debbie. I don’t know exactly how she’ll have survived that explosion, but we know Led did, so it’s at least possible (especially if the EMP injection contains some of whatever has kept Led running after all of his injuries). I suspect she may be the titular “Tokyo Ghost.” Or, at least part of the Tokyo Ghost. Little Takara might represent the other half of a team that fights to bring Tokyo back to its former glory. I don’t want to start guessing as to what shape the series might take from here — as I said earlier, I have absolutely no idea where things are going — but I feel confident in saying that this story is still very much Debbie and Teddy’s.
By the end of the issue, Debbie is ready to say goodbye to Teddy, but during his rampage, she finds hope in the glimmers of his willpower.
Oddly, this moment comes after Debbie declares that Teddy is dead “for good this time.” I’m hoping that chronology implies that she might still be able to save Teddy. Shelby, I’m going to challenge your assertion that becoming poison to Led would cost Debbie Teddy forever — it just means she can’t be near him while he’s hooked in. She won’t become any more poisonous to Teddy than Kazumi was, but she’ll destroy any technology Led might be relying on. To me, that sounds like a kind of brilliant way to ultimately resolve the story — Teddy has to sober up to be with Debbie — but I’m sure it will take us a while to get there.
Boy, I’m surprised at how optimistic I am after what is truly a demoralizing issue. All of the utopian elements, from the technology-free paradise to the carefree love between Teddy and Debbie are ripped to shreds here, but I’m none too worried. Maybe it’s Murphy’s gorgeous art, or maybe it’s the clarity of Remender’s themes that give me confidence that this isn’t the end of Debbie and Teddy, but I’m confident they’ll make it through even this level of trauma.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?